In light of the Comedy Central Roast of James Franco, which debuted this Monday and its re-airing tonight, we decided to take a dive into the world of the Comedy Central Roasts. Since 1998 Comedy Central has aired an annual roast on its channel. The first five of the roast were held at the infamous NY Friar’s Club and took the style of the classic Dean Martin roasts, it’s since morphed into something more TV friendly adopting a looser look and style. Many legendary stand-up comedians have sat in the hot seat, or partaken on the dais. Other comedians have been able to jumpstart their careers by appearing on panels – a good spot could help give them a nice boost give the public a taste of their brand of humor. Celebs began to creep onto the dais over the years, some with memorable moments for being surprisingly good, while others surprisingly bad.
Here are 12 of the most unforgettable, outstanding, and downright mean spots from the Comedy Central Roasts over the years.
Patrice O’Neal on the Roast of Charlie Sheen (2011)
This roast served as the swan song for the late, great Patrice O’Neal; who would suffer from a stroke that would ultimately claim his life few weeks later. Earlier that year, O’Neal released his devastating stand-up special Elephant In The Room, and the roast was the biggest platform O’Neal had to that date to showcase his tell-it-like-it-is brand of humor. O’Neal always wanted to do things on his own terms and turned down roasts and other opportunities in the past. But when Charlie Sheen, fresh off his “Tiger Blood” era was the subject of the Roast, O’Neal seemed to connect with Sheen’s battle with the system. O’Neal closed the night with a list of jokes in hand but seemed to just forgo them and just started to deal on the rest of the dais. He managed to call William Shatner a racist asshole, refused to learn Anthony Jeselnik’s last name, requested Seth MacFarlane come out of the closet, shared his disappointment at Steve-O’s new attitude, and question Jeff Ross’s existence. All before he even got to Charlie Sheen whom he barely even needed to take aim. It’s 6 minutes of brilliance from one of the kings.
Greg Giraldo on the Roast of Larry The Cable Guy (2009)
Besides Jeff Ross, Greg Giraldo appeared on the most roasts. He was also nearly the first comedian on all of them. Something that bummed other comedians out because he was such a tough act to follow. Though all of his roasts are stellar, his appearance on the Roast of Larry The Cable Guy took a turn. Near the end of his spot, Giraldo kinda had enough of it all and snapped, as he had “never roasted a fake character before.” It’s no doubt that the high point of the entire roast came about when he screamed at the top of his lungs the question everyone else was thinking: “Why are you so popular?!”
Norm MacDonald on the Roast of Bob Saget (2008)
In a brilliant showcase of anti-comedy, Norm MacDonald surprised/trolled everyone at the Bob Saget Roast. By responding to producer’s request to be edgier, McDonald brought out deliberately corny and old-fashioned jokes that, fun fact: were made up by his father. The jokes may have been cheesy, but that was their power. It took a while for the audience to understand what was happening that night and to this day some still didn’t get it. But it’s also what makes the lore of McDonald’s appearance stronger.
Patton Oswalt on the Roast of Flavor Flav (2007)
Patton Oswalt isn’t really a comedian one thinks of as being able to pull off a roast but when he got up on stage to take the piss out of Flavor Flav what he ends up pulling off is one of the memorable moments of the night. I have to say, my personal favorite part of this roast is Patton Oswalt calling Katt Williams a “pimp in a thimble” through song. That pretty much says it all.
Gilbert Gottfried on the Roast of Hugh Hefner (2001)
Gilbert Gottfried is a roast master, while it’s tough to single out just one, his stand out performance was at the Roast of Hugh Hefner. This roast took place in New York just a few weeks after the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. Gottfried took to the podium and kicked ass until he hit a few too soon 9/11 jokes and fell on his face. Rather than losing the crowd that night, Gilbert used an impressively despicable version of The Aristocrats joke that allowed for everyone (including Rob Schneider) to have some levity in an hour of seriousness. The above clip is Gottfried’s set that aired. But below is the behind-the-scenes moment with the Aristocrats moment that didn’t air.
Amy Schumer on the Roast of Charlie Sheen (2011)
Before Amy Schumer gets to Charlie Sheen, she starts by telling Mike Tyson that he has “a slutty lower back tattoo on his face,” which might be one of the best lines in this whole bunch. Her dealing with Tyson could also be single-handily the moment when the world fell in love with Amy Schumer.
Anthony Jeselnik on the Roast of Donald Trump (2011)
I’m sure everyone can agree that The Situation is a hard act to follow (he historically bombed), and in case you can’t tell by reading, that’s dripping with sarcasm, but Anthony Jeselnik rose to the challenge. His penchant for harsh and fairly offensive humor are what made his roast so memorable, particularly when he said no one will care when Trump gets cancer. A lot of the world met Anthony Jeselnik that night, and his brand of biting comedy was perfectly on display at a roast.
Marlie Matlin on the Roast of Donald Trump (2011)
Academy Award winning actress Marlee Matlin was so outrageous as a roaster, her translator was compelled to leave halfway through. Luckily for us though, he was quickly replaced by Gilbert Gottfried, who took over with a sidesplitting set that paired with Matlin really stole the show.
Jeff Ross on the Roast of Drew Carey (1998)
You can easily pick any of Jeff Ross’ appearances on the roasts and put it on this list but we’re going with is first. This spot was nearly beat out his Pamela Anderson roast where had to deliver his jokes while dealing with a clearly unruly and under-the-influence-of-something Courtney Love. Ross has been a part of these modern roasts since the beginning and his appearance on the first roast of Drew Cary shows exactly why. Ross slays in his set before he started wearing costumes and playing up the whole “Roastmaster General” thing. His main goal was to go out there and make people laugh and he did it with ease, Drew Carey is in tears and the laughs are giant. Poor Abe Vigoda.
Nick DiPaolo on the Roast of Denis Leary (2003)
Nick DiPaolo was a mainstay on the early years of the roasts and there’s a reason why. He had the ability to rip on pretty much anyone at any time with such smugness, that it worked perfectly on roasts.
Whitney Cummings on the Roast of David Hasselhoff (2010)
Whitney Cummings first appeared on the Roast of Joan Rivers the year before. But her biting digs at the dais and a dig at Hulk Hogan’s daughter during the Roast of David Hasselhoff was so mean it was brilliant and put her on this list. Cummings is another example of a comedian that rose to prominence after appearing on a roast. She has a talent for ripping into people with a happy-go-lucky smile on her face, and there’s no way you can’t get mad.
Lisa Lampanelli on the Roast of Chevy Chase (2002)
Lisa Lampanelli is another roaster one could easily pick any of her sets and put it on this list. But here’s her first and she went for the jugular and hasn’t looked back. On the Roast of Chevy Chase. Chase was in a grumpy mood that night and clearly not amused by anything anyone said, but that didn’t stop Lampanelli as she showed off her classic mockery and roast-worthy material.
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